Earlier this year, the clubbing community was left devastated when it was announced that London's Fabric nightclub was to close. After two drug-related deaths at the venue this summer, Islington Council stated that there was a “culture of drugs that the management cannot control”. Yet despite the hypocrisy in these words, the management were blamed for being unable to prevent the deaths occurring in their club and so the club had its license revoked in September. But I use the words hypocrisy very seriously as it seems that the council seemed to see Fabric as the epicentre of the drug problem in the country. In its very narrow-minded view, nightclubs are seen as a haven for people to take drugs whenever they please and tried to impose a message that the management at Fabric were in fact partly to blame to allowing this cycle of drug abuse to continue by simply opening their doors to the public. But what the old license policy at Fabric didn't address, and same goes for this new one, is that people will still take drugs, and if they are, they should be doing it safely and not criminalised in the same way that tabloid newspapers do when they say things like "they had it coming".
So earlier this week, Fabric was granted a new license. But not without an almost unnecessarily overwhelming amount of public support that allowed the club to raise the funds they needed in order to appeal the decision. The club will open again in the near future but as part of their agreement with the council, a huge number of new conditions have been put in place to ensure the safety of their patrons. But on examination of this new rules, it seems that the council only seems interested in the illusion of safety rather than safety itself. Let's break down the bullet-points to see exactly what they expect to happen in the club under these new conditions.
Firstly, the club will not be able to admit under-19s to its "core club nights". It sounds pretty vague as I'm pretty sure that most nights at Fabric could be considered as "core" so for the sake of argument, let's just say that 18-year-olds will be banned from the nightclub for most if not all of the events. Which seems a little naive to say the least. Exactly what is it about the character of an 18-year-old that is so dramatically different from a 19-year-old? What exceptional level of maturity can a young adult possibly go through in just twelve months that would see them as a responsible patron in the eyes of the law? I get that they don't want young, inexperienced drinkers to cause any trouble but that isn't going to stop them from going out. If anything this just seems like way of moving the problem on without dealing with the issue at all. But either way, its not that uncommon for clubs to impose their own age restrictions so they can have a pass on this.
Next is the level of CCTV and ID scanners the club now have to install. ID scanners in most nightclubs are standard these days. Most chain clubs up and down the country are now taking your picture as well as scanning drivers licenses and passports before you go in. It helps to weed out fake IDs and makes it easier to identify troublemakers should anything kick off. It's fine and shouldn't be seen as too draconian. But the level of CCTV Fabric are being asked to install is quite excessive. Essentially the entire building must be kept under complete surveillance at all times. This is not to suggest that Fabric weren't already doing this, but many have begun to ask about the toilets in the venue. After all, this is supposed to be a measure to clamp down on drug abuse so monitoring the toilets would obviously have a factor in that decision. Still, we can't comment on where the CCTV cameras are to be installed so we'll suspend our criticism for now.
And now we get on to the big mother of all these new drug battling issues, an instant lifetime ban for anyone caught selling, consuming or handling drugs on the premise. Really? That's it. That's your big scare tactic to stop people from taking drugs on the premise. Lifetime bans! As if Fabric weren't already doing something like this. Of all the clubs I have been to, Fabric had one of the most rigorous drug searches I have ever seen. They even checked my filter tips and rolling tobacco before I went in. What they have no idea of is exactly what I could have taken before I even got in the queue. And this is the heart of the drugs problem we have right now.
The problem we have is not the exposure or access to drugs, it is the non-eduction and non-regulation of drugs. When we buy cigarettes or alcohol, we expect it to be cigarettes and alcohol. And we know it is because there is regulation and standards imposed on them to ensure that they are both safe to consume in moderation. But drugs have no regulation and therefore standards cannot be guaranteed. When Secret Garden Party announced earlier this year that it would allow festival-goers to test their drugs before they took them, more than 200 individuals had their stash checked. And the results found that 25% of all the drugs checked were in fact not drugs at all and, in some cases, poisonous. That means even if only four people turn up to a club having already dropped a pill, there is a chance that one of them could have consumed something lethal. And despite everything they are doing to prevent it, could end up dead by the end of the night.
But it is not just the validity of the drugs which is crucial to people's wellbeing, people also need to be aware of the dangers of overdosing as well. If you asked any normal person you meet, what is a lethal dose of MDMA? Chances are you'll be met with wild guesses based on vague knowledge. Yet we know that a lethal dose of alcohol is 26 units because it is exactly 700ml of a 40% spirit. That's why they are sold in that size and amount, because anything more would be considered dangerous. But if someone buys a dozen pills for their night out, then realises that they wouldn't be able to take them into the venue of their choice, what do you think will be the next course of action? Of course they'll take them all, right then and there, in one go. Which again will feed into another drug-ralated death in a nightclub.
The point to all this is that the controlling bodies need to be more mature in their approach to drugs. Just because something is illegal doesn't mean it will miraculously disappear, and just because someone OD'd on pills doesn't mean "they had it coming". Drugs are all around us and they are here to stay. As long as there are people looking to add a little something more to their nights out, there will always be drugs to fill that demand. And blaming the individual or nightclub for any of these deaths is short-sighted and ignorant. I'm not saying that we just turn over and legalise everything, but I do believe that if you keep everyone well-informed, they will make well-informed decisions, and then maybe we can finally start saving some lives.